Mary felt exhausted. She spent the last few hours scrubbing large cooking pots and pans, scouring the floor, cleaning the stoves and sinks. She washed countless dishes and left them on wooden racks to dry. Her wet hands were red from all the work she had to do today. And the day before. And numerous days before then ever since she'd been assigned to the scullery as assistant to the kitchen maid.
She closed her eyes, trying to rest just a bit. How long could she endure it? Day after day of backbreaking work. Enduring disdain of all other servants, who looked down on scullery work. However, if she worked hard enough she could be made a parlour maid one day, Mary kept reminding herself. And then, if she did well and got lucky, she could even become a lady's maid! That would be the life: a lot less work, a nice and clean uniform, respect and envy of other household servants!
The bitter irony of her ambition to one day become a lady's maid was not lost on Mary. Or Lady Mary Russell to be precise. Her fascination with the working classes led her to the ill-fated decision to swap places with her personal maid. Only for a couple of days, she thought then. What was supposed to be a brief vacation from the daunting duties of a high society hostess, turned into a more permanent arrangement. Not only that, due to the former servant's machinations, Mary was quickly relegated to the ranks of scullery maids. After all, she needed all the training she could get before she could be trusted with more nuanced and complicated tasks of a lady's maid.
But for now the former lady was stuck in the kitchen, hoping and dreaming that her efforts will one day be noticed and she'd begin a slow ascent upstairs.